One thing missing so far from this Christmas season is proper Christmas weather: snowy conditions and temperatures well below zero degrees Celsius. So far this month, the mercury has stubbornly stayed well above freezing, for instance, daily it has been around 11 degrees Celsius). That has some skiers suffering - with very few runs at any ski hills operating. Still, it's too early to get too worried yet: as Jan Velinger reports, operators are confident things will soon take a turn for the better.
Ještěd, photo: Štěpánka Budková
The last winter season was one of the longest in recent memory, this one can't seem to get started: so far this year this ski season isn't much of a season at all, with temperatures in mountainous areas stubbornly refusing to fall. Skiers who hoped to be among the first on the slopes will just have to wait. But, ski hill operators - while not thrilled about the late start either - have at least taken advantage of the situation to complete final touches, for example, weight testing new chairlifts. Earlier I spoke with Radka Zahorova, a representative of Snowhill - a company operating a number of high profile ski hills in the Czech Republic including north Bohemia's Jested Mountain.
"It's surprising that we still don't have snow yet but we are waiting for cooler weather in about one week. Usually we have snow by the beginning of December. This season is a little bit different. But, we are dependent on the weather and we have to take that into account. But, we hope get snow before Christmas and expect the season will then last until the end of March."
Though there's no question the season could have begun a lot sooner - last year's started mid-November - the late start is not that unusual and travel agencies too have not really registered any significant impact on package sales. Tomas Brejcha, spokesman for the Cedok travel agency, says that experienced skiers understand that the beginning of the season is always a bit of a risk.
"Most skiers of course count on conditions being better in the New Year. Lately we didn't see a drop but actually a rise in the number of clients. But they're not skiers. As a rule many who travel at the end of the year don't go for skiing but for hiking and outdoor walks."
If there is a negative impact from all the mild weather it could come most notably for local hotels - that may suffer fairly late cancellations by Czechs who thought they'd be skiing by now. Unless the weather conditions improve that could be unavoidable. Once it does gets underway, this season will then have a lot to live up to. Last year, 2005/2006, saw a record numbers of skiers and snowboarders taking advantage of much more snow. Now it's all a matter of things picking up. Snowhill's Radka Zahorova once more:
"We are expecting colder weather next weekend and then we can start our snow guns. We are hoping we get a lot of snow and that the winter will be fun!"